When Diana Lee, the Executive Secretary of MTGC (Malaysia Tourist Guides Council) and honourable Treasurer of KLTGA (KL Tourist Guides Association) called me to enquire whether I was available to attend 2 days of seminar on 8th and 9th May 2011 at the Sri Pacific Hotel, K.L., I thanked her profusely for nominating me and quickly grabbed the offer.
The 2 days seminar was named as The Malaysia International Tourism Bloggers Conference & Awards 2012. The 420 strong participants were officials of the tourism ministry and the KL City Hall, representatives of MATTA members, members of the various states’ tourist guides associations, both the local and foreign media personnel, members of the Social Media Chambers of Malaysia, and a panel of prominent bloggers-speakers to grace the occasion. The inaugural conference was organized by The Tourism Ministry with collaboration with The Social Media Chambers of Malaysia and Travel Blog.
On Tuesday May 8th 2011 9am the Hon. YB Dato Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen (The Minister of Tourism) gave a vibrant speech to address the floor, and to welcome the foreign speakers, thence launching the 2 day-long conference. After a short break of tea time the seminar began at 10am sharp with Sheila Scarborough of The United States fired the first inspirational speech about how to reach out to travel bloggers and how to interest them in one’s destination. She also stressed the importance of special demand and the presence of social media networks in helping the tourism industries.
A section of the conference Hall at Sri Pacific Hotel
The following speakers in the morning were Dr Mridula Dwivedi and Kiruba Shankar of
India, Alistair Watters of Scotland, David Hogan Jr ( Malaysia) and Shane Dallas of . Watters told the floor the essentials to identify and build active communities through travel blogs. Australia
Shankar shared his lively insight finding for tourism expansion through social media community built-up. Hogan of Malaysia emphasized about sharing through travel experience in building a community expansion for travel bloggers. Shane Dallas urged the bloggers to dream, discover and to explore new heights, so as to attract viewers and followers, as effective blogs evoked wider interest. Shane mentioned that descriptive language used, human interaction and involvement, are the basis elements for a successful blogger’s endeavour.
Before the lunch break, more distinguished speakers took the stage seats with Stephen Doss as the leader host: Joe Lee of
talked about entrepreneurship in tourism trade using social media to create leads, and to generate income. Anuradha Goyal of India highlighted the roles played by TV and radio channels, magazines and newsprints. James Craven of Malaysia spoke about the social media in social travels, enterprising ideas in tourism, the contents and goals etc. Iman Brotoseno described the blogging-scenes and the trend in internet browsing interest in UK . There are a whooping 5.6 million bloggers in his home country! Indonesia
We were served sumptuous and delicious luncheon at the Sri Pacific Hotel, self-serviced buffet style. The seminar resumed at 2.30pm for the first day. Khairul Anwar took over as the host leader with speakers from
Malaysia, and The Philippines in tow. Dainty Windy Ariestanty stressed the importance of photography with the help of the power points works from her laptop. Her mottos reached out to us like: Snap is about the moment! Everyone is a brand! Snap and tweet! Michael Aquino wanted the attendants of the seminar to be honest about their shopping experience anywhere they went. He urged us on: Go shopping, talk about it, share your discovery, keep your viewpoints balanced, good or bad, and be honest! Next we had demure and sweet looking lass Anis Nabilah, pretty Malaysian TV host and chef to tell us where to go for good food at malls and even stalls. A young law student and life style blogger Hanie Hidayu took over the mike to tell us one should start young so as to stay young to travel; going places sure was fun, she said. She shared her experience in travels with us using slides of many photo shots. Apart from doing the home work like gathering information and preparations before one embarked the journey, it was more imperative to be prepared with sufficient fund too. (That was my opinion.) Indonesia
Delegates called it a day after further tea time later in the afternoon around 6pm. Meanwhile some of the participants mingled with the celebrity speakers for more interactions and had pictures taken with them.
The second day began at 9.30am with quite a number of participants coming late. Ms Sheila Scarborough spoke with fiery power for one solid hour about how the social web could help any tourism destination to play in the big time with vibrancy in the products and services. She reminded that one should not ignore the contribution and power of the “little guys online”. Dil Ishak took over as host leader for the topic that followed: Measuring return on investing in tourism using social media. Professor Dwivedi of
pinpointed the problems and obstacles for bloggers’ effort in finding accurate data, lack of feedbacks, and academic literature methodology. She told the floor that there are 80 nations that have internet access out of 195 countries, but still the net users are confined to local niches among the social media platform. Finding the desired websites itself is a task, she lamented. India
Next we had James Craven of
on the need to influence bloggers. Some should be brave and adventurous enough to be trend setters in travel and leisure. Nisha Jha of UK took over to explain the role played by social media as an enabler, not merely as answer to one’s marketing woes etc. Jojo Struys of India Malaysia presented slides of still pictures and video scripts compiled by 40 celebrities to highlight the plight of 81,000 HIV carriers of . Her presentation won intense attention that touched many concerned hearts. Malaysia
The conference continued well past 12noon with Abdul Khani Daud of Tourism Ministry showing the floor an effort by the ministry in video and slides for the country’s hotspots and landmarks for tourism. Shahul Hameed of Social Media Chambers of Malaysia spoke next to outline the bloggers’ responsibility and obligation etc. One could post anything in his/her blog, but he/she must be prepared to accept criticism and must be accounted for whatever one published. Self-improvement is the norm; so bloggers should find their own niche audience, so as to update themselves in knowledge seeking and information sharing.
The second part of the seminar for day 2 confined mainly on parallel sessions of workshop in terms of questions and answers, and to wrap up the conference as it came to an end. Surprisingly there were many eager travel bloggers raising their hands to ask for further clarifications, advice, information, and directions on how to make their blogs more successful. James Craven of
UK, Dr. Dwivedi of and Sheila Scarborough of US were earnest in rendering their views and advice in answering the questions. James Craven advised: Tell a story and write it well on your blog and it will turn viral! There were groups of participants took the opportunity to have their photos shot together with the speakers before bidding each other goodbye. In between the session breaks, 3 fortunate delegates won Samsung Galaxy mobile phones in lucky draws. Regretfully few speakers left known their blogging addresses. Even 2 of them did so, but the slides were turning too fast for the audience to record the addresses. The 2 day-long conference was officially closed around 6pm. I needed to mention that members of the KLTGA taking part in MITBCA’12 were: Diana Lee, Yvonne Yong, Alan Kok, John Lim, Stevie Chan, Teh Lai Chin, Lee Choo Sim, Jane Chan, Jeremy Kong, and Wong Foot Jaw. They were given a CTRE (Continued Tourism Related Education) certificate each for attending the event. India
Alan CY Kok